If it were less porous, I’m sure madrileños would build
their homes out of bread. They are obsessed with bread in any form: light and
crusty loaves, dense and cross-hatched ones, cubed in soups, ground into
crumbs, sliced and de-crusted, and stuffed with sweets.

But I’m overbreadened—I mean overburdened. I eat toast in
the morning and there are slews of pastries to choose from like crescents
stuffed with hazelnut-flavored chocolate and chocolate-chip muffins. On school days
for lunch, I have two bocadillos,
sandwiches made of full-size loaves of bread, with a bit of “fiambre” (cold
cuts). On days when I come home and eat pasta, served of course with some
bread, I feel like I want to be bread—I mean dead.

I always thought I ate a lot of bread in college, but I had
no idea how important it is here. Everyone has his or her own tiny breadbasket
for the doughy demons. My home-stay brother alone eats three small servings with
his meal.

Just before madrileños sit down to share “La Comida,” the
large Spanish lunch, I see them returning to their homes with long brown bags
containing loaves of bread. That’s all! This is the reason why women don’t use
leashes to walk their dogs in Madrid: they need one hand for their purse and
the other for the bread 

I’ve only heard my host-mother’s two-yea-old grandson speak
a few words. Abu (short for Abuela or grandmother), Agua (water), and, probably his
favorite, pa’ (short for pan which means bread) He loves to go to
the store to buy it with his grandmother, where they bake it fresh and sell it
for under 1€. I once gave him the whole loaf and he held it between his arms,
touched his tongue to the center, and I saw a stream of drool fall to the

A common saying in Madrid is: “Es más triste que un día sin pan” which
means, “It’s sadder than a day without bread.” Luckily, it’s difficult to do
that. The majority of tapas options include bread, most bars serve mini
sandwiches and restaurants bring mounds of bread to the table with dinner.

I don’t know how I’m going to break it to my host-mother when Passover
arrives that I can’t eat bread, rice, pasta, flour, and many other things. She
may break out in tears. No croquettes, no breaded merluza fish and no paella.

Will I go back to bread? The answer is yes, but not because I crave
the stuff; it’s because bread is by far the best medium I can think of for
eating the “oro líquido” (liquid gold) that is Spanish olive oil.